5 Ways to Take Back Your Time

5min read
desk and clock on a wall
Multi-passionate Creative

People often tell me in amazement that I do so much! And this is true. I’m always doing many projects at concurrent times, but there’s a difference between being busy and doing. While it’s easy for me to get lost in the busy often, I prefer the doing.

Staying busy can keep you static. The doing of executing tasks moves the needle forward. When I do things, I do them with intention. I don’t have a special equation for doing many overlapping projects at one time. I simply make choices of how I want to spend my time.

“Lost time is never found again.”

Benjamin Franklin

How Much Do You Value Your Time?

If you were to ask me how I do all the projects that I do, I would flip the question back at you and ask, “How do you spend your time?” You can learn a lot about someone simply by understanding how they use their time.

Take a reflection minute here. Look at your days this past week, and identify how you spent every minute. You may surprise yourself if you’re answering honestly.

I would also follow up with a second question, “How much do you value your time?”

I value my time—a lot. And this is because I have so many things I want to do—want is a keyword. These are things like goals I want to accomplish and personal projects I want to explore. I also have things I have to do, such as work projects to finish and regular daily life stuff to manage. It’s never about “time management.” There’s no real such thing as “managing time” as people often say. It’s about managing priorities.

But if you’re looking for some literal examples, here’s just a few on how I personally get more time back into my days to get things done:

1. Limit Social Media

I try to spend little time these days browsing social media for leisure; and if I’m being honest, I don’t gain value by watching people live on it. It’s a time sucker—and you know what I’m talking about. You watch one short video and soon hours have gone by (it’s not just me who does this, right?). Or you get mind stuck in a wheel of envy or frustrated by seeing negative sides of human behavior. You can’t get that time back.

If I do spend time on channels, it’s because it’s part of my actual business work, project sharing, or I’m touching base with distant connections. When I do stay away from social media I notice that my emotional well-being is better. This is important to me in general, and it also helps my productivity.

2. Limit TV and Movies

I don’t watch much tv or movies. I cannot tell you what the latest tv shows are, what movies are hits at the box office, and I can’t name off actors or celebrities for the life of me. If I do watch tv, it’s generally a documentary, short informational videos, or talks to learn something new. I crave this type of educational video learning, and I don’t get this from the average sitcom or Hollywood film.

When I first moved out on my own back in the day I couldn’t afford cable, and looking back now this was the best thing that could have happened to me because I gained a habit of not leaning on the tv for a relaxing escape. I don’t own a subscription service like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or any of the many others out there. TV’s are expensive literally, but more importantly they’re expensive in taking my time.

3. Utilize Your Driving Commutes

I utilize my long driving commutes in many ways. In fact, I absolutely love driving, especially long commutes. When I drive, I am doing one of four things:

  1. I’m listening to a very specific Spotify music playlist that helps me recharge my energy to stay productive and focused;
  2. I’m listening to a podcast or audiobook to get better at what I do, learn something new, or get inspired;
  3. I catch up on my phone calls;
  4. Most often though, I think deeply. I utilize my time in the car to plan my days, strategize my work, problem solve, and reflect. Perhaps this classifies me as an introvert, but I enjoy–and need–this quiet space to simply think.

My best ideas, reflections, aha’s, and solutions come from my driving commutes. I do consider my drives to be very meditative, and on some days it is the best break I’ll get. I set my driving experience to be enjoyable. Get some zen into your commute, and take advantage of these time slots.

4. Schedule Meetings with Friends and Mentors

Scheduling meetings may sound counterintuitive, but I’m not talking about work meetings. When it comes to work meetings, I recommend trying to limit those where you can or keep them to be very short. But what I’m talking about here is scheduling meetings with people who are important to you, who inspire you, challenge you and encourage you.

Whenever I find myself in a dip of momentum, if I feel stuck, if I feel siloed and alone, I connect with these people. It’s amazing what a simple meetup at a coffeeshop or call can do. When you’re around positive people who mean a lot to you, you get an energy from it, and it will recharge you to continue forward with new focus.

5. Do Things that Align with Your Personal Values

I prioritize projects that align with my personal values. If you haven’t taken time to reflect and discover what your personal values are, do take time to do this.

We all know what it’s like to do work that’s not enjoyable. Unenjoyable work often occurs because it doesn’t line up with your core. Maybe your core values are based around doing work that makes a difference or in doing things with your hands. In these scenarios doing something that doesn’t have an aspirational mission or has you sitting behind a desk is going to clash with your core and cause emotional tension—and this is a time waster.

When you’re spending great time doing something that isn’t enjoyable, it decreases your energy to do something that you would enjoy doing around this. Do things that align with the core of who you are. It will give you energy.

In Conclusion: You Make Choices

How to spend your time is a daily choice. The beauty of this choice is that we can reset our decisions each day to make better choices.

Believe me when I say I’m still learning how to make best choices in my life. I don’t claim to be some time management guru. I’m far from it most of the time, and I fail at aligning my time to my values often. However, I’m open to recognizing where I truly spend my time by consciously studying myself, and I’m willing to try reprioritizing the things that are important to me. I reset—a lot.

When I observe how people spend their time, I’m really observing their values and priorities. It tells a great story about yourself. What are your values and priorities? The answer to this question will tell you how to improve the use of your time.

Reflect, make a plan, and do.

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Maria Gosur is a multi-passionate creative who loves to learn, design, make a difference and inspire others to do the same. With education and experience in all areas of creative work, Maria is passionate about sharing her knowledge and encouragement to others who are trying to expand their skills, pursue big goals, and be a resilient creative.